Photo – Pixabay (PD)
To help the environment, France has required buildings in commercial zones to have their roofs partially covered in plants or solar panels. This is a law that aims to help reduce the need for energy production that contributes to carbon emissions, as well as help with biodiversity in the cities as plants provide a nesting place for birds and help control rainwater runoff. 
But how can plants help? According to the Earth Institute of Columbia University, plants play a big role by absorbing excess carbon dioxide from the environment and using it for photosynthesis, which in turn produces oxygen. Water is also a by-product of plants’ photosynthesis, which helps cool the surrounding air as well. However, because of too much carbon emissions, plants have a hard time absorbing all of the carbon dioxide – in fact, too much carbon dioxide in the air actually causes the pores in plant leaves (called “stomata”) to shrink, further reducing the cooling effect plants have on the earth. 
The Earth Institute cites Cao and Caldeira’s experiment, wherein they found that doubling the level of carbon dioxide in the air drastically reduced evapotranspiration (the method by which plants cool the earth), and was responsible for 16 percent of land warming – the rest of the percentage is due to carbon retention in the atmosphere. 
Of course, this law has been watered down from the demands of the French environmental activists, who called for all roofs of new buildings in France to be covered entirely in plants. In reality, the law passed only applies to new buildings being built in commercial zones, and only requires them to partially cover their roofs in plants or solar panels. The latter was a popular option because generating electricity from solar panels means a decrease in operating costs for the businesses – while helping the environment while they’re at it.
But France isn’t the first country to make this step to fight global warming – “green roofs” are very popular in Germany, Australia, and Toronto. The Canadian city actually enacted a by-law in 2009 that required green roofs in new industrial and residential buildings in the city. If these cities can do it, why can’t other countries make green roofs a priority in their cities? If fact, think of the effects of every home in the world having plants in their gardens or their window sills. We all need to do our part to help fight rapidly approaching climate change. 
 France Decrees That New Rooftops Must Be Covered In Plants Or Solar Panels. (Guardian) https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/mar/20/france-decrees-new-rooftops-must-be-covered-in-plants-or-solar-panels
 Cho, R. (2011). How Plants Could Impact Global Warming. http://blogs.ei.columbia.edu/2011/02/12/how-plants-could-impact-global-warming/
 City Planning Division. Green Roofs. http://www1.toronto.ca/wps/portal/contentonly?vgnextoid=3a7a036318061410VgnVCM10000071d60f89RCRD#top
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